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Faith, Family and Farming

by Paula Reed, Montgomery County Community Foundation

Clark and Nancy Sennett are content to not wander too far from home. The peaceful rural landscape surrounding their home is framed by fertile farmland, barns, and prize-winning cattle. Inside their home are many treasured keepsakes handed down through the generations and numerous photographs of beloved family members. There is also a vast array of tractors, replicas of all makes and models, all very meaningful to Clark. But one particular gray tractor with a tiny chicken sitting on top holds special significance for the Sennett family.

Nancy and Clark Sennett

The story that provides the backdrop for Clark’s history as a farmer all starts with a chicken and a 9 N Ford tractor. Clark’s dad, Merle Sennett, bought a tractor in 1939 for $650 and then in 1942, he left the farm to serve in WWII. In January of 1943, Clark’s grandfather, Clarence Sennett, was tragically killed in a mill accident, which left his grandmother, Blanche Sennett, to take care of the farm. Times were hard and resources were scarce and eventually the tractor went up for sale at an auction. During the war auctions were held somewhat like a lottery; prices were preset on certain items and the names of those interested were put in a box and the winner drawn out. However, that procedure did not apply to livestock. J. D. Campbell, auctioneer from Linden, told those in attendance, “Folks, here’s what we’re going to do. I’m going to set this chicken on top of the tractor and we’re going to bid on this chicken and whoever gets the chicken gets the tractor.” When it was all over, the chicken sold for $2,400, the amount owed on the farm, and the rest is a family legacy.

Tractor and Chicken

Clark and Nancy desired to leave their own legacy as well and recently established the Clark and Nancy Sennett Fund at the Montgomery County Community Foundation (MCCF). It is an unrestricted fund that supports a wide variety of needs and causes in our community. Nancy admits that until she became a MCCF board member, she never really understood the significance of an endowment. But now she says, “It’s not just a one-time donation that’s quickly forgotten, but an ongoing investment in the future. Endowed funds are a permanent way to support the community and make an impact where you live long after you’re gone.”

Nancy shares a story of how this impact became crystal clear to her. Many years ago, Edith Botts and her invalid husband owned a farm just a stone’s throw from the Sennett farm. Clark’s dad farmed the Bott’s farm until their deaths, at which time he inherited that farm. Through a bequest set up by Edith, a nursing scholarship in her name was established and eventually transferred to the MCCF. Just last spring, a student from North Montgomery high school was a recipient of the Botts scholarship and she called Nancy in tears and poured out her gratitude for this award. The student went on to say that without this scholarship, college would not have been possible. Nancy says that Mrs. Botts would have been so pleased that the investment she made years ago is still making a difference today.

Clark and Nancy believe that there are many people in Montgomery County who desire to make a difference; their generosity is one of the greatest things about living here. Regardless of the situation, resources quickly come together and needs are met. The establishment and success of the Montgomery County Free Clinic is just one example, and the overwhelming response to the recent Lilly Endowment matching gift program at the MCCF is another. Nancy says that one of their own personal reasons for giving is the belief that, “to whom much is given, much is required. We are only stewards of all that we’ve been given.”

The Sennetts say that they have been blessed in many ways. Clark descended from a long line of hard-working farmers and cattlemen and he is proud of that heritage and the satisfying life it brings to him and his family. Nancy’s grandparents showed her unconditional love and acceptance and possessed a “don’t quit” attitude that spoke volumes to her. From these seeds planted early in life, a philosophy of faith, family and farming took root and became the Sennett tenet. It has sustained them well during their 42 years of marriage.

Those principles continue to guide the entire Sennett family. Both of their grown children are now leaving their own imprint in the soil of Montgomery and Fountain Counties as they farm the land. Their son, Lance, and his family are partners in the very successful farming and cattle operation which began in 1890. And their grandchildren, a great source of pride and joy for Clark and Nancy, have won numerous awards as they have shown Sennett cattle at various fairs across the country. Generations of a rich Sennett history that continues – all because of a chicken and a tractor.

Posted with permission of Montgomery County Community Foundation

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